Structures and creativity – friends or foes?

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Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

That’s a haiku. A haiku is a Japanese poetic form using seventeen syllables, usually split over three lines, the first having five syllables, the second having seven, the third having five. Traditionally, they linked the majesty of nature to the human condition. In the example above, the writer’s stuck to the basic structure but then just had some fun.

The way in which the fundamental structure is adhered to but then the writer applies creativity makes me smile and reminds me of a coaching conversation I had earlier this week. When I last met with Tess*, she’d decided that her best plan of action would be to do some fact-finding and number-crunching to enable her to be certain of what was going on in the marketplace, competitor activity, the team’s performance to date against budget and the success of some of their recent campaigns. ‘Frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to doing it. I knew it wouldn’t be very exciting and it would take me away from my core activity,’ she explained. ‘However, I knew it had to be done if we want to make progress so I just knuckled down and ploughed through it.’

‘What’s really interesting is what’s happened since I shared the results with the team.  Now they know the parameters, can see clearly what we’ve achieved, where we’re headed and how we might get there, it seems to have somehow liberated them. There’s a kind of lightness about the team – now they have a solid structure, they can get on with their work in any way they like, as long as we all respect that structure. Rather than holding them back, it seems to have spurred them on.’

The structure Tess created and her team applied wasn’t exciting, it didn’t raise her profile with her peers or her manager, it wasn’t even particularly visible to others.  However, it sharpened their focus, reminded them why they do what they do and gave them the freedom to go after the results they wanted in a way which suited each of them as individuals.  This isn’t always the case – see ‘The only routine with me is no routine at all’ for more on that – but it’s worth taking some time to consider how a structure could help.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts:

How can you use structure to free yourself up?

What do you think?


*not her real name. The story is shared with permission.

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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